Edgar Allan Poe's short but mysterious and convoluted life is reflected in his darkly horrific literature, which has earned him an honored place in the history of American poets. Poe struggled with lifelong depression and alcoholism, most likely connected to the perpetually unstable condition of his family and residence. Poe's travelling stage actor parents, David and Elizabeth Poe, died in December 1811 in Richmond, Virginia, just less than three years after his birth in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809. Poe, his older brother Henry, and his younger sister Rosalie were left orphaned and ultimately separated when Edgar was taken in by Mr. John Allan and his wife Frances in Richmond, Virginia.
Under Allan's care, Poe was sent to boarding schools in England and America, and then to the University of Virginia for college. Despite his academic prestige at the institution, Poe was forced to leave before the conclusion of his first year as a result of his unpaid gambling debts. Poe left Richmond in 1827 and moved to Boston, where he enlisted in the United States Army and published his first collection of poems, entitled Tamerlane and Other Poems. Two years later, Poe was released from the army and published a second collection of poetry called Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither of his first two compilations garnered much public or critical acclaim, and shortly after the second publication, Poe entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York for six months until he was court-martialed and dismissed in March of 1831.
During the period of four years while Poe served in the United States Army, both his foster parents, John and Frances Allan, and his older brother Henry died, leaving Poe increasingly without relatives. However, he settled in Baltimore, Maryland in 1835 with his aunt Maria Clemm and her young daughter Virginia, only to move with the Clemm's to Richmond, Virginia in 1836 where he took an editing position at the Southern Literary Messenger. That same year, a twenty-seven-year-old Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin Virginia.
For the next decade, Poe relocated his new family to New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore in order to fill editorial positions at several magazines and newspapers. Until Virginia's death in 1847, Poe wrote and published many of his most famous works, including a collection of short stories titled Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Raven. These works, along with more of Poe's later writing, secured him as a pioneer in horror and detective literature.
After his beloved wife died from tuberculosis, Poe's depression swelled, as did his alcohol abuse. The disease hindered his engagement to widow Sarah Helen Whitman, who would not marry Poe unless he was completely sober. He could not clean up for Whitman but tried again for another fiancé, Elmira Royster Shelton, by entering the Sons of Temperance in 1849. Unfortunately, Poe was found less than six weeks later semi-unconscious in Baltimore and died in the Washington College Hospital on October 7, 1849. The author was buried next to his grandfather in the Westminster Burying Ground in Maryland.
Allen, Hervey (1927). "Introduction". The Works of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: P. F. Collier & Son.
10 Interesting Facts About Poet Edgar Allan Poe
His parents Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and David Poe, Jr were both actors (Allen)
Unfortunately Poe was an orphan by the time he was 3 and became a foster child. He took his foster father, John Allan's, last name "Allan". (Loveday)
Other famous stars and addicts who were foster children include; Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and John Lennon.
Poe had multiple aliases including Henri Le Rennet and Edgar A. Perry (Lovejoy)
At 27 he married his 13 year old cousin "Sissy" Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe (Lovejoy) although some modern scholars say their relationship was more like brother and sister and likely never consummated (Cullen)
In 1842 he tried to start his own magazine "The Stylus" with little success (Lovejoy)
Everyone needs at least one failed business attempt under their belt.
At one point they were so poor and ill that his aunt (and mother in law) begged for food and even dug vegetables out in the dead of night (Lovejoy)
After his wife died, his fiancee Sarah Helen Whitman demanded he stop drinking, he couldn't and so he attempted suicide instead. (Loveday)
Just goes to show you can't change other people and you shouldn't try.
Dabbled in Science Fiction and murder mysteries before it was popular. (Stableford)
Poe deliberately got himself court martialed to get out of the army by not showing up and disobeying orders. (Hecker)
Not a recommend course of action.
Mystery surrounded his sudden death on the streets of Baltimore. Many believed it was due to alcoholism, which seemed unlikely. Some theorized that he had a brain tumour, however University of Maryland cardiologist R. Michael Benitez, M.D. reviewed the notes regarding his death, the condition of his body and patient history and has hypothesized that the actual cause of death was Rabies.
Benitez, R. Michael. "Edgar Allan Poe Mystery." University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. http://umm.edu/news-and-events/news-releases/1996/edgar-allan-poe-mystery
Cullen, Lynn. "11 Things You Didn't Know About Edgar Allan Poe." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-cullen/11-things-you-didn't-know-_1_b_4059140.html.
Hecker, William J. (2005), Private Perry and Mister Poe: The West Point Poems, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, ISBN 978-0-8071-3054-4
Stableford, Brian (2003). "Science fiction before the genre". In James, Edward; Mendlesohn, Farah. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 15-31. ISBN 978-0-521-01657-5.
Loveday, Veronica. (2005). Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar Allan Poe, 1.